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Archive for November, 2018

Carlin and I have been practicing for our upcoming Scent Work trials in Idaho Falls. Novice and Advanced level searches have been relatively easy for us (except for Buried—that seems to be the problematic element). But next weekend, we are entered in our first Interiors Excellent searches.

So Carlin and I went to a local training facility, a friend set up an Interiors Excellent practice search for me, and I videoed our search using a GoPro on my head.

Interiors Excellent requires two search areas that total 400-800 square feet. I think the search areas in the video have a too-small total search area. But I didn’t check, so I don’t know for sure.

It also requires that one search area has one hide, and the other has two. The trick with this requirement is that the team doesn’t know which search area has one hide and which has two. The hides can also be set up to 48” tall, and one is inaccessible to the dog. This practice was set up just this way.

This level also requires multiple distractions, which can be toys, lights, sounds, or food. The first search area included a whole basketful of toys, but there were no other distractions purposely set. Of course, the falling plastic cups could be considered a kind of distraction—I was pleased that Carlin wasn’t fazed by them at all.

I learned some things in the first search area:

  • When Carlin purposefully goes back to his first find multiple times, it’s likely that there’s only that one hide in that search area. In this video, you can see that he went back to his find at least 4 times. He searched where I asked him to search, but then kept going back that first find. That’s a hint I need to pay attention to.
  • By looking at the video, I notice that Carlin searched the area to the right of the refrigerator early on, and then later I asked him to search that area. I had completely forgotten he’d already searched it. I need to get better at that—remembering where my dog has been already and not wasting time going back to those places.

The second search area was much more straightforward.

  • I had to laugh when he indicated his first hide in the 2nd area – he’d found that hide already while searching the first area, since it was right around the corner. I haven’t been in an Interiors Excellent search yet, but I’m guessing that in a trial, the areas may have a bit more separation than we set up in this practice search. I guess we’ll just have to see.
  • And I’ll have to remember to get a clear picture in my head of where the search area boundaries are before we start searching.

Carlin is a good teammate with a good nose. It’s a joy watching him work. As you watch the video, I hope you think so, too. And more, if you’re not doing scent work with your dog, I hope you think about doing it. It’s a lot of fun for both members of the team.

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Update 11/29/2018 — I just discovered that Carlin needs one more Interiors Advanced pass to get his Interiors Advanced title and the overall Scent Work Advanced title. I thought we had three passes in Interiors Advanced, but I was wrong. Fortunately, the lovely trial secretary at the upcoming trials in Idaho Falls has agreed to move us down so we can do Interior Advanced searches there. (We had been entered in Excellent, but we don’t qualify for that class yet.)

Now, back to the original post…

Carlin and I had a great time at the Idaho Capital City Kennel Club‘s scent work trials this weekend. We got off to a slow-ish start on Saturday, but totally picked up steam today.

Carlin with ribbons

Yesterday (Saturday), Carlin went to extremes. In trial 1, he placed first in Container Excellent, but then NQ’d in Buried Advanced. Then, in trial 2, he NQ’d in Container Excellent but qualified with a 3rd place in Buried Advanced.

The qualifying runs, he earned without doubt. His indications that he’d found the hides were clean and unambiguous. In Containers Excellent, he sniffed and pawed the three correct containers, totally ignoring the food distraction and the toy distraction. In Buried Advanced, he briefly pawed the correct dirt boxes and sat next to them. He did pick up the tennis ball distraction, but quickly dropped it when I told him to leave it (which pleased and amazed me).

Our NQ-ing the other Containers Excellent and Buried Advanced were mostly on me. In Containers, his indication on the third hide looked half-hearted, so I asked him to keep searching. He randomly picked a container that I had stopped and stood next to instead. Well, the one he initially indicated was correct and the random one was not. Buried Advanced was similar. I didn’t quit moving, but he had a hard time finding the second hide, but finally he picked one. I called it, and we were wrong.

But Sunday, the boy was amped. He whined and wanted to start searching NOW! Usually, I take a bit of time at the start line while I switch his long line from his collar to his harness. I think that gives us a moment to breathe and collect our thoughts. But Carlin wanted to GO NOW! And in all four searches, he found his hides quickly and accurately.

The first search was a Containers Excellent, with the containers set in a 4 x 5 grid. I hate grids. Carlin usually just blasts into the center of all the containers and starts searching from the middle of the grid. That makes it very hard for me to remember where he’s searched and where he hasn’t. But in the first trial, Carlin decided to be methodical, searching up one row and back down the next in a zig zag pattern. He ignored the toy and food distractions and found each hide. I called them correctly, and we were done in just under 27 seconds for a 1st place.

Honestly, I don’t remember the day’s first Buried Advanced search. The ribbon sticker says it happened in 28:15 seconds for a 3rd place.

With the 2nd trial of the day, I was feeling nervous. If he passed the Containers Excellent, he’d get an SCE (Scent Work Containers Excellent) title. If he passed Buried Advanced, he’d finish both the SBA (Scent Work Buried Advanced) and the SWA (Scent Work Advanced) titles. I realize having titles isn’t everything, but still, they show how hard we’ve worked and how talented Carlin is, so I wanted them.

And lo and behold, Carlin qualified in both. This time Containers Excellent was set in a circle, the toy distraction was totally hidden inside the container. In previous trials, judges have set the toy so that exhibitors could see at least part of it, and know to not call a find on that container. But not this judge. So I’d have to just trust my dog to find odor, and not the toy or the food. And he did it! It took us two turns around the circle, but he found and indicated all three hides in 37:28 seconds, completely ignoring the toy and the food, for a 1st place.

In Buried Advanced, he found both hides in just under 34 seconds for a 4th place. I didn’t believe his first indication, and I wanted to be very conservative, so asked him to keep searching. He correctly indicated a second box of dirt pretty quickly. And then he bee-lined it back to the box he first indicated, sat down smartly, and lightly pawed the box. This time I believed him, called it, and we got a “Yes” from the judge. I was a bit rattled, because this was the qualifying run I really wanted so Carlin could get both the SBA and SWA titles. So for a few seconds, I forgot to say “Finish”. Then I remembered and said it, the judge said, “THANK you!” with some emphasis. I think she was worried I wouldn’t say that last crucial word.

I am so happy with Carlin’s performance. We’re both a bit tired, him because he worked hard for his Qs, and me because I chaired these trials. But we had a great set of volunteers to help get this weekend’s trials done and done well.

Now we can rest, until we start training for the next trials in early December. I’ve decided to try Handler Discrimination, so we’ll see how that goes.

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There were some great things about our recent hunting trip in eastern Montana. Carlin and Tooey got to trot almost to their hearts’ content in the wild country without danger from snakes, ticks, or other dogs.

There were only a few cockleburs and grass awns, and those we got out from the dogs’ coats pretty quickly.

The stars at night were amazing. I’ve never seen the Milky Way so clearly, and the Big Dipper pretty much blew my socks off (not literally–it was too cold for that) with how close and crisp those stars appeared.

And the dogs found and flushed a few pheasants and sharptails.

But mostly, it was an unsatisfying trip. It was cold – really cold: in the low 20s F during the day, and 0 at night. The birds were few and far between. And it was very windy. Even though the dogs flushed a few birds, the north wind whipped them quickly up and out of gun range and off to the far southern horizon. Being November, the days were short, and we had a lot of driving between areas where we were permitted to hunt.

And then, there was that little trip to the vet…

A bit of back-story is in order: Almost 7 years ago to the day, Russ and I were hunting the Potholes in eastern Washington with Rod and Renae. We had their dog Rio along, and we had Cooper and Tooey. Tooey liked to cruise the edges of the ponds looking for whatever could be flushed or chased. And she found something – a porcupine. That porcupine got Tooey but good. We spent quite a while pulling quills out of her nose and muzzle. We got them all out, but as soon as we let her go, she ran right back toward that spot where the porcupine had been. She fully intended to get that porcupine for what it did to her. We called her off, and most reluctantly she turned away and came back.

But apparently, she has never given up her grudge against porcupines.

It turns out that porcupines like to eat the inner bark of trees. But until this last week, we didn’t know that. Both dogs were hunting in a draw crowded with bare, stunted trees. Fortunately, Russ was on the ridge right above them. Suddenly, he called out “Porcupine!”

The dogs had ventured into porcupine country. This is what I think went through their minds when Tooey encountered the porcupine. Tooey: “Porcupine! I am going to GET you, sucker.” Carlin: “I think I’ll go see what Tooey is looking at.”

Both dogs got quilled by the unhappy resident. Once Russ called out, the rest of us came running to grab the dogs and take them back to the truck, where we could try using a hemostat to pull the quills out.

But getting them out didn’t work so well this time. We finally muzzled Tooey with a rope during the operation, but it was clear that we wouldn’t get the ones out from inside her mouth. Carlin bit Russ on the thumb while Russ was trying to get the quills out, and besides, Carlin had a quill up one nostril.

So off to the vet we drove, a little office in Glendive, about an hour away from where we were hunting.

Dr. Jen at Dawson County Veterinary Clinic was awesome at getting those quills out. The vet also did a careful, thorough search of their paws (apparently, some dogs try to wipe the quills away from their muzzles and then get them stuck in their paws), ears, eyes, mouth, neck, and front legs.

Poor Tooey had to be sedated to get the quills out from the roof of her mouth.

She found several broken-off quills in both dogs, and pulled them out, too.

Based on what we’d just gone through, we were not surprised to hear that quill-pulling is a big part of Dr. Jen’s practice. One poor local dog apparently comes in once a month to have quills pulled. I guess some dogs never learn.

Like Tooey. I imagine that this incident will just intensify her grudge. I hope for Carlin, though. He’s not as happy to put up with pain as Tooey is.

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